I’m always a little sad to see National Poetry Month come to an end, but here we are on April 30th. Like the time lilacs are in bloom, NPM never seems quite long enough. My sincerest thanks go to all of you who joined the celebration (as readers and as writers) on The Music In It, and a big THANK YOU to readers who posted poems and/or shared comments.
Special thanks and appreciation go to Basil Rouskas who, for the second year in a row, posted a poem every day and is the recipient of The Music In It National Poetry Month Award. Bravo, Basil!
Regular prompt posting will resume on Saturday, May 4th. In the meantime, here’s a wonderful piece by poet Michael T. Young that takes a lighthearted look at the (sometimes agonizing) process of writing a poem. (I certainly identified with it and suspect that you will too!)
How a Poem is Written
by Michael T. Young
- A lot of words are scattered on a page.
- Unnecessary abstractions are reworked into images.
- Unnecessary images are struck out.
- Some commas are inserted, an M-dash and a semi-colon.
- Some long sentences are shortened.
- Some short sentences stretched out.
- Two words from the first line are brought to the second line.
- One word from the fifth line is brought to the sixth line.
- Some commas are removed and the semi-colon changed to a period.
- The short sentences that were stretched out are shortened again.
- The long sentences that were shortened are lengthened again.
- The last line is made the penultimate line and a new line written for conclusion.
- The two words brought to the second line are deleted, requiring a new verb and relineation of lines 2 through 8.
- A new image inserted in line 13 pushes three words to line 14 requiring relineation of lines 15 to 20.
- 2 of the long sentences that were shortened and then lengthened are shortened again.
- Instead of lines with roughly ten syllables per line, everything is reorganized to have roughly six or seven syllables per line.
- Realizing that was a bad idea, it’s all reorganized so every line is roughly fifteen syllables per line.
- Realizing that was a bad idea, it’s all reorganized back to roughly ten syllables per line.
- A day is spent wondering if it should be structured in blank verse as opposed to free verse.
- Remove all the punctuation.
- Change the title five times over a day.
- Put all the punctuation back in except for the M-dash.
- Insert some place names for local feel.
- Remove all but one place name because they seem clunky.
- Strike out everything from the first line to the penultimate line.
- Take the last line, make it the first line, and begin writing the poem.
A Note from Michael Young: I find that sometimes frustration can work itself to such a pitch that it ruptures into a moment of clarity. Such was the source of this rant-like piece. I had been working every day on a single poem for about 2 months and felt no closer to getting it right. I don’t mind working on a poem for a long time, even years, as long as I have a sense that I’m getting a syllable closer to the mark. But when it seems there’s no progress, not even inching toward the invisible mark after endless revisions, well, that simply maddens me. Perhaps that’s why I have a somewhat obsessive way of writing; I can rarely stop thinking about a poem until it’s finished or I tear myself from it to retain my sanity. These are the poems that often, for me, become completely morphed in later years as the poem documented in this piece: a poem transformed into something completely unintended and, since writing is an act of discovery, better than one could ever intend.
Please be sure to visit Michael online at www.michaeltyoung.com and at his blog (The Inner Music) http://inermusic.blogspot.com/.